Sturm und Mom

The Storm & Stress (& Joy) of Motherhood

Archive for the tag “moving”

Community That Lifts You Up, and Holds You Down

I love my new backyard!!!!

I am now typing this in my brand new address.  The movers came a week ago to take the heavy furniture and the too large boxes in their (what would turn out to be too small) truck.  Auntie took the little kids, school took the big ones, and an installation appointment took my Sweetheart to the new house, leaving me all alone with an open front door.  Desperately needing to keep out of the way least I cause a Worker’s Compensation Board claim, I stood at the kitchen island, trying not to look indolent.  The multi-coloured activity that is recess at the playground of the school down the block caught my eye.  Suddenly, I realized now that I was leaving, how much I had connected myself to that swarming mass, even though they weren’t necessarily my children out there.  I had a kinship to those kids and those parents that I saw everyday out my kitchen window, even when my own little ones were sitting beside me eating apple slices and Triscuits.  The melancholy realization struck me that my moving way meant losing a community that I didn’t even know I had.

How much of our sense of community is more than just physical?  Location, work, Church, sports — these are the easy identifiers to where we belong.  But we all carry around in our heads an idea of who we belong to, and who belongs to us.  Much the same way that search engines customize their results based on past search requests, we start to view the world as a collection of groups, placing ourselves as members in or out of them.  But what happens when we find that our self-selected group doesn’t think we belong?  Like when your favourite comedy suddenly turns the jokes on what you hold most dear, and you realize that they see you not as a co-conspirator but as ridiculous.  Or when a group of Moms organized a playdate in front of my friend, making a conspicuous effort to let her know she wasn’t invited.  There is something psychically jarring about finding out that as far as part of your identity is concerned, everyone voted and you don’t belong.

People often write, often quite beautifully, (like Jen at Conversion Diary did recently about a horrible motorcycle fatality in her neighbourhood,) about how community can stitch us together, bind us up, and make us whole.  But in my sadness in leaving my familiar haunts, I also mutter “and good riddance to that.”  Community can lift us up, but sometimes it keeps us down.  My last neighbourhood paired streets of McMansions straining at the setbacks of their city lots, with blocks of status seeking starter homes and condominiums.  People worked so hard and long to take constant trips to Mexico, carry flashy purses, and buy their 8 year olds Macbook Pro’s for Christmas — they got their iPhone for Kindergarten Grad — that they were never around.  Every evening at 5:55 PM, it was a line of luxury cars down that same school street as parents rushed to make it to After School Care pick-up before the fines kicked in.  I saw my neighbour with kids twice in the year that she lived 5 doors down from me.  She was such a stranger I walked right by her at the Public Pool, and didn’t clue in until I was 20′ past, that I had just snubbed her.

I hoping, praying, that things will be different in our new digs.  We’ve already met more neighbours here, than I did the entire 7 years I lived in my old house.  Perhaps this house will bring more of the same, but it’s too soon to tell.  And until then, I am hoping that we have landed into a community that’s more chatting on the sidewalk, and less chasing after the latest win.

My House Has Told Me That We Need to Talk

I think our house wants to kick us in this region.

Yep, my house is starting to figure that something is up.  It’s noticed that I’ve been a bit more distracted lately.  That I’ve been stepping out for afternoons and coming back with empty boxes.  It’s tried to listen to my phone conversations and heard words like “possession” and “keys.”  But the lipstick on my collar was when a  guy walked through the house and shouted that with three guys and a truck it would be “easy to clean out.”  This house is no dummy — it’s figured out that we are leaving.

And it’s letting us know it’s displeasure.  This is no house to be easily scorned.  First, there was the tiny-tiniest rivulet of water from the door of the washing machine to the floor.  The repair man came.  He pronounced it a “non-specific leak” and told me to wipe my gasket.  But the house has other tricks up her sleeve.  The dishwasher has started making the strangest hum while running, yet isn’t sick enough for the fellow at South Appliance Repair, who was all too anxious to cash my $375 cheque just 18 months ago, to come out.  And somehow, the only bugs to come out of dormancy in this frozen wasteland I call home, have managed to die in the upstairs flush-mount light fixtures.  The ones I just washed 2 months ago.  The ones I guess I’m going to be washing again.

I’d bring home some flowers for the kitchen, but this house has upped its passive-agressive game, and now I know it would be a good $35 wasted.  As if to cover its eyes in horror, both light bulb on our porch blew at out at once, leaving our night-time coming and goings in darkness.  No cheery, bright welcomes anymore, just stumbling toward the keyhole by street lamp.  Then it brought out its big guns.  Friday morning I tried to open the door of our bathroom door and – nothing.  The lever handle had total ceased to engage the mechanism when you turn it on one direction.  In other words, a person could in a moment of er, urgency, find himself fumbling in futility as he tried to reach the fixtures on the other side of the door.

I realized that this was our house’s equivalent of hardball.  “Fine.  You want to leave?  Not until you clean up a bunch of carpet stains caused from some very small children with very large bladders.”

House, Baby.  I’ve avoided this conversation for way too long.  Yeah, we’re going, but you’ve got to know:  It’s us, not you.  Seriously.  Have you seen what a single bedroom with three girls packed in it looks like?  It ain’t pretty, unless you think being inside a room after a IED stuffed with nail polish, Barbie Dolls and used Kleenex has gone off is pretty.  And what about the time I nearly got hit by a bus putting the Baby in the truck?  In the rain?  WHEN I HAD A HEAD COLD?   Yeah, I’ve met someone new on a quiet street, but I only started looking because we’ve grown apart.  Or we’ve grown by three kids and have to part.  You get the picture.

Look, I know you’ll meet a new family real soon.  Yes, house I can guarantee it, because Transfer of Title is a legal document.  So buck up Sweetheart.  Us leaving is the best thing that could happen to you.

And please, please, please stop breaking things.  I promise I’ll buy you flowers.

The One I Am Leaving Behind

No, I'm taking this one.

We are moving in a month and my feelings are on a seesaw. As much as I’m anxious to set up in our new home, I feel like a shadow is chasing me. Unwelcome thoughts of loss poking into the edges of my mind.  A baby blanket draped over the banister turned, out of the corner of my eye, into a child standing with bare legs. When I looked again, there was nothing but shadow.  I feel like I am losing someone, and I realized that I am: this house.

It always surprises me how human inanimate objects can become to us — well, to me.  Just like a friend or family member, this house has a personality. It is much more than just a backdrop to our memories, it has become a silent partner in many of those memories. How many times has someone told you a story about someone, only to have the surrounding architecture play a pivotal role in the outcome? And just like any family member, I’m blind to some of its worst faults, I make excuses for its bad design and location, but a minor quirk will drive me nuts and lead to complain constantly about it to my friends (the poor choice of tile colour comes to mind here.)

Did I miss my last house — our first house — this much?  The answer was always no, until I was scanning some old photos and I realized that I don’t miss it because part of me has never left.  I just haven’t been there for a long while.  I know it’s irrational, but I’m sure that the kitchen’s still yellow, and the curtains and rod we bought on sale right after we married are still hanging in the basement, and all our pictures are still on the walls.  If I walked in and found it all changed, I think I would faint!

The landscape of the man made world is just as real as a physical landscape but so much less reliable.  I can recognize peaks of mountains we’ve hiked by in 100 year old photographs, but I don’t even know if our second floor Vancouver apartment is still standing.  What happened to the tiny oven, the green bathroom, the double closets in the living room?  Are the anchors of my memories hanging in the breeze 12 feet up?  Stuck between two floors in a new upscale condo?  Or are they still there growing more decrepit with each passing year?

I said good-bye to the physical shell of this house while cleaning and polishing before the first buyers walked through.  But our home was much more than just a building.  It became it’s own emotion, almost like a member of the family who was always there, and part of everything that happened — good, bad and mundane.  And it’s that part that I am having trouble parting with.  I suppose it will always live on inside my memories and pictures, and through stories that start “Remember when…”  And it will have a new job to play in the lives of the family that will soon, well, call it home.

So here’s to houses past, present and future, and to the special place they hold in our hearts.  Though we may be long gone, you dear buildings, are not forgotten.

My Jonah Moment

Sorry, I haven’t been around much the last week.  I haven’t fallen off the blogging map, just had some stuff come up around here that has taken all my time.  I figured it was better to lie low for a while rather than just post any ol’ thing, though that is pretty much what this blog is about — any ol’ thing that pops into my head, but I digress…

It all began while I was gently encouraging in a loving, yet persistent way, (ahem) my husband to get cracking on those extra bedrooms we need in the basement for the kids.  God may have blessed us with six beautiful children, but throwing one boy into a stew of all girls, certainly makes the sleeping arrangements rather tricky.  When I sat down and took a hard look at this work schedule and did a preliminary budget for the renovations, I realized that a monkey wrench has been thrown into our attempt to stay put in this house.  Or rather, has thrown us out the door.  While we are not moving to any McMansion, we have finally had to admit that three bedrooms above grade just doesn’t cut it for us right now, and that we need to look for something with 4 bedrooms and no immediate renovations required.  That means moving, which I hear only works if you sell your house.  If I were sitting beside you speaking this, you would hear me insert one of the many language intensifiers I have been using lately, but since I’m the one typing right now, I’m going to sanitize my image and leave it clean.

Sitting in Church on Sunday morning, in between distracted thoughts about whether or not I could survive on 3 hours of sleep nightly for the next week, I overhead the a reading from the Book of Jonah, and I realized that this whole house thing is my Jonah Moment.  Jonah was the prophet that God sent to the city of Nineveh, or at least he would have been, if Jonah had actually gone the first time.  That’s how he ended up inside “the belly of the fish” — he was tossed overboard in a storm trying to sail in the opposite direction.   And that’s what I’ve been doing.  No, I am not going to bumper sticker my car with “Providence is my Realtor.”  But I have been running away from a difficult decision, even though the answer was staring me in the face.  I just didn’t like the answer.  So, I kept asking the question.  And rephrasing it.  And doing some internet research.  And asking other people’s opinions.  And sleeping on it.  And so on and so on….

And now, I’m just stuck with boxes and boxes.  My sweet, overworked husband and I are both INTJ personality types, which is nicknamed “the Mastermind.”  This means that we have set an insane deadline to get the house ready and, of course, we want to sell it ourselves to save the commission.  Don’t worry — Sweetie Pie (9 tomorrow) said that she would help with showings.  I’ve already read two books on selling your house, and two on staging your house (just one more to get through!)  Buckle up, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Thanks for sticking with me as things get a little intermittent.  I promise I’ll be back to normal soon.  Or may a whale swallow me whole.

 

 

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